Macron takes aim at Islamic 'separatism' in France

French President Emmanuel Macron. AFP Photo

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday urged France's Muslim community to step up the fight against "separatism" as he toughened his rhetoric against Islamic radicalism in the wake of a deadly attack.

The centrist Macron, whose main political rival at home is far-right leader Marine Le Pen, has sought to show he is serious in cracking down on Islamic radicalism in France following the October 3 attack by a Muslim convert at Paris police headquarters that left four staff dead.

In a pre-recorded interview with RTL radio broadcast on Monday, Macron said he planned to fight, alongside Muslim leaders, against what he termed "communitarianism" and resistance among some French Muslims to integrate.

"It is a fact that a form of separatism has taken root in some places in our Republic, in other words a desire to not live together and to not be in the Republic," he said.

"It is in the name of a religion, namely Islam," he said.

Macron's comments were broadcast hours before he hosted representatives of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to press for joint efforts between the government and the Muslim community to crack down on radicalism.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who attended the meeting, told AFP Macron had urged the CFCM leaders to "fight alongside the state against communitarianism and Islamism".

The president told them he wanted to see a "change in rhythm" from the council to wage a genuine fight against radicalism.

CFCM Vice President Anouar Kbibech, who was present at the Elysee talks, said the council would now make "very strong announcements" on the fight against radicalism at an extraordinary meeting called for Tuesday.

There has been an ongoing debate in France in recent years about the role of Islam in a republic built on staunchly secular values where Muslims now make up some 10 per cent of the population.

The controversy intensified following a string of deadly attacks carried out by Islamist militants in 2015, including the massacres at the Charlie Hebo satirical magazine and Bataclan music venue.

The October 3 killings by Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old computer expert who converted to Islam a decade ago and adopted increasingly radical beliefs, has again laid bare the tensions.

Eager not to be outflanked by the National Rally (RN) of Le Pen, Macron after the killings gave a tough speech where he vowed "an unrelenting fight in the face of Islamist terrorism".

He called on all of France to build "a society in a state of vigilance" in order to overcome what he termed the "Islamist hydra". 

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